ALERT TO PARENTS
PET TURTLES MAY BE HARMFUL TO YOUR
Small turtles are a source of a disease called salmonellosis in
humans. Salmonellosis is an infection of the intestines
caused by bacteria called Salmonella. Symptoms of the
disease may include diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea,
vomiting, fever and headache. Symptoms begin in 6 to
72 hours (usually 12 to 36 hours) after a person is
exposed to Salmonella, and they generally last for 2 to 7
Anyone can get Salmonella infection, but the risk is highest
in infants and young children as well as the elderly, and
people who have lowered natural resistance to disease due to
pregnancy, cancer, chemotherapy, organ transplants, diabetes, liver
problems, or other diseases.
Salmonella are naturally occurring bacteria in turtles and those with Salmonella usually do not appear
sick in any way. In addition, turtles do not shed Salmonella all of the time. So, just because a turtle
might have one negative test for Salmonella doesn’t mean that they are not infected. It could mean
that the turtle was not shedding Salmonella on the day it was tested.
The sale of turtles with a carapace* length of less than 4 inches has been banned in the U.S. since
1975 because of the public health impact of turtle-associated salmonellosis. This regulation is
enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in cooperation with State and local health
jurisdictions. Experts estimate that the regulation has prevented about 100,000 cases of salmonellosis
per year. However, there has been an increase in the sale of turtles in recent years
Alert to parents and other persons responsible for the care of children:
The sale of small turtles for pets is illegal.
Be alert for turtles in petting zoos, parks, child day care facilities, or other locations
where children may be.
If you come in contact or handle turtles or their housing, be sure to wash your
hands thoroughly with soap and water.
*Thick shell that covers the back of a turtle
Food and D r u g Ad m i n i s t r a t i o n , Ce n t e r f o r Vet er i n ar y Med i ci n e
7519 Stand i s h Pl a c e , HFV- 1 2 , Ro c k v i l l e , M ar y l an d 2 0 8 5 5
Telephone: ( 2 4 0 ) 2 7 6 - 9 3 0 0 FA X: ( 2 4 0 ) 2 7 6 - 9 1 1 5 Printed July 2005